It doesn’t matter if you stand up paddle board inland on rivers, lakes or at the coast in open water, weather affects what you do all the time. This may sound obvious but Mother Nature’s moods will impact each session – for better or worse.
There’s never been as much weather info available as there is today. All you need to do is hit up the web, search for weather forecasts for your spot and you’ll be presented with a myriad of info. Some of this is super in depth and not needed while other data gives more generalist updates on conditions. Knowing how to interpret and apply this knowledge to your local put in is part of the SUP journey.
Local weather effects.
Each spot has its own specific set of weather effects. The surrounding topography, how shorelines are aligned, proximity of other land mases and elevation all play their part (among other things).
Atlantic driven fronts, for instance, can unload on offshore island before reaching the coast proper. Clouds then tend to bunch up as they hit the hillsides having finally swung inshore. It’s not unusual to have rain sluicing down around some locations whilst the venue in question basks in sunny weather.
There are other situations that can surprise you with set ups like the described. Think swell. With the right wave angle (swell direction on a forecast), and ideal combo of tide/wind, it’s possible to find much bigger (rideable) waves at some put ins than you’ll get at surrounding spots. Likewise you may end up getting skunked time and again slowly adopting the belief there’s nothing happening when this isn’t the case. You just need to hit at the optimum time.
Another common local factor is wind (particularly south coast UK spots), or more precisely an abundance of it during summer. The south coast is breezy at the best of times, but when warmer temperatures hit this can increase due to thermal effects. Sea breezes can set up often and it’s something we talk about further down this article.
Rain and more rain!
If you’re heading somewhere elevated cloud formations will hug protruding land masses and can become dense. They can shed their watery cargo, even when forecasts suggest skies will be clear – which may be the case where terra firma is lower lying. Rain therefore will possibly be on the cards more frequently than not.
A good example of this is the Lake District. Hillsides, fells and mountains can cause all kinds of weird weather patterns to occur. Gulley’s, valley’s and scars carved out of slopes create funnels for wind, rain, snow and all manner of phenomenon to be squeezed through. It’s not uncommon to have fairly benign conditions in one area only to be confronted with significant change when heading into a new space just metres further along.
Micro-climates can also play there part. Having soggy conditions passing to the north while at the seafront you’re bathed in sunshine is also another phenomenon of south coast stand up paddle boarding locations. Some further afield such as in Cornwall as well.
Winds play a big par, as already said, at lots of locations. If your chosen paddling spot sits close to another land mass with water in the middle then with certain wind direction this can set up a Venturi Effect which exacerbates the breeze strength locally. This can often catch paddlers out…
Spotting a seemingly light wind day SUPers hit the beach only to find a moderate to stiff breeze puffing and causing all sorts froth and flotsam to form in open water. Tidal flows also get squeezed between land masses – another natural occurrence any open water paddler should be aware of. I the two combine and flow in the same direction then you’d have a rapid conveyor belt type scenario that’d help if you aiming to paddling in the same direction as the flow but cause a headache (and potentially be a safety issue) for stand ups wanting to go the other way and/or not being aware.
Tidal SUPers should know what a summer sea breeze is. During early summer (May-June ish) day time thermometer readings rise significantly compared to cooler overnight levels. As a result the land warms up quickly.
Hot air rises and to fill the void cooler air rushes in from the sea causing a convention current to form. This recirculating of air, as the cooler air heads back out to sea before dropping again, can go unforecasted often. If there’s a gradient wind in the mix then sea breezes can top gust strengths up. A once glassy calm morning suddenly switches to strong winds around early afternoon and last right through.
While not necessarily a weather anomaly tides can certainly influence things as afr as weather goes, be that good or bad (which we’ve touched on in the Venturi Effect section). For instance, with a stiff breeze blowing in the same direction current is flowing you’ll be surprised how quickly you move. In some case this can be a good thing. Time it right and your journey from A to B will be as efficient as possible. Get it wrong, however, and things may go awry (think trying to get back to your launch as you steadily get dragged further away).
Tides flowing back into where the winds blowing from can cause the water’s surface to become ruffled – extremely so in some instances. Large standing waves may form with wind against tide making for fun SUP sessions for those with experience but being hazardous to those without.
Rising (and falling mercury levels.
And let’s not forget those all-important warmth levels. While air temperatures may be well into double digits at sea level, scaling heights to paddle at your favourite stretch of high rise water can see readings rapidly dropping.
You may have been roasting during the journey but come time to paddle and things have cooled off considerably. One of the main reasons it’s a good idea to carry extra warm layers in a secure dry bag. Everything from additional breeze in the mix to flying water spray could cool you down. Whilst hotter days, whereby micro climates help elevate temps, will see rider getting a sweat on much quicker than anticipated.
Knowledge is power when it comes to everything, stand up paddle boarding being no different. We appreciate not every paddler will have first-hand experience regarding every put in but there’s plenty of information that will at least give ideas of what to expect based on the forecast data to hand. It’s then a case of checking weather forecasts and interpreting them accordingly as best you can. If you paddle somewhere regularly there’s no excuse to miss the basic nuances that create that spot’s weather makeup. Take note each time you head out and every session will become more fulfilling. Likewise, you’ll end up with less aborted sessions due to adverse conditions.
Check out the following articles for more SUP weather related info –